Police presence pulled from La Jolla’s Children’s Pool as pup season ends

By Ashley Mackin

Though seal pupping season ended May 15, Children’s Pool beach is still undergoing changes due to actions taken by the city.

There is no longer a police officer on duty and the beach is no longer closed at night, but there is still a ranger on patrol during the day, and the 152-foot-long rope barrier remains as a visual reminder for people to stay a safe distance from the seals.

A city-mandated monitoring program will soon be in place.

The city also collected public comments regarding a possible full-time beach closure during pupping season.

In an e-mail to

La Jolla Light

, dated May 10, San Diego Police Captain Brian Ahearn said, “We will no longer be permanently stationing an officer at the (Children’s Pool) unless something changes. In fact, with private security there overnight and Park Rangers doing such a good job of resolving disagreements, we have withdrawn from being there permanently most of the time.”

The patrol was in accordance with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s decision to close Children’s Pool beach from sunset to sunrise, which went into effect in late March on the heels of harassment reports, most notably, the Feb. 14 video recording of two young women disturbing the seals at night.

While none of the harrassment was as aggressive as the recorded incident, Filner said his office has nontheless received additional reports of seal harassment at Children’s Pool.

Seal activity on the beach continues to be streamed globally via the Seal Cam, which will remain at its position on the Children’s Pool lifeguard tower until the tower is demolished sometime this summer. It is unknown where the Seal Cam will be relocated.

The Coastal Commission permit allowing the year-round rope requires the development and implementation of a monitoring plan.

“The goal of this monitoring plan is to establish baseline data that will be used to determine the level of use of the beach by seals as a haul out location throughout the year and to also assess the level of effectiveness of the rope at minimizing visitor disturbance of hauled-out seals,” the permit states.

The permit requires the following data be collected: number of seals hauled out at Children’s Pool; number of people present on the beach; number of people present in the water; the tide; the weather (water and air temperature); date and time; any relevant comments or observations, including location of people on the beach (i.e. inside or outside of the rope).

Seal Cam volunteers currently record the number of humans on the beach, the number of humans in the water, the number of seals on the beach, date and time, and descriptions of beach activity.

Mayor Filner has requested that the Coastal Commission allow flexibility in how the city meets the monitoring requirement, including using the Seal Cam. On May 14, the Coastal Commission issued a notice of approval, saying that the Seal Cam is an acceptable way to record beach activity and meet the terms of the monitoring plan. While public donations will still be accepted, the mayor’s office will request city funding to pay for it.

On May 22, Mayor Filner released revisions to his fiscal year 2013-2014 budget, which includes almost $11 million in extra funds from an unanticipated increase in property taxes and new savings from renegotiated rents, a press release states.

The revised budget includes the addition of $50,000 for the operations and monitoring of the Seal Cam.

The city recently collected citizens’ comments on a Draft Negative Declaration of an Environmental Impact Report that would close the beach entirely during pupping season. The declaration would reclassify Children’s Pool from a public beach to an environmentally sensitive habitat area during pupping season, thereby making human access illegal.

The outcome of that public comment period and the city’s decision has not been announced. Check back for updates as they become available.

— Pat Sherman contributed to this report